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"Juneteenth" marking when the final slaves were set free at the end of the Civil War is an official state observance in 42 states but not Utah. That could change.
The House Government Operations Committee voted 6-1 on Tuesday to endorse HB338 and sent it to the full House. It would celebrate the third Saturday in June as a state day of commemoration for Juneteenth.
If the measure is adopted, Juneteenth would join a list of other state commemoration dates including Bill of Rights Day (Dec. 15), Constitution Day (Sept. 17), Utah State Flag Day (March 9) and POW/MIA Recognition Day (third Friday in September).
Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, the only African American member of the House, is sponsoring the bill. She noted that Juneteenth has been celebrated informally for at least 75 years in Utah, with a statewide ceremony organized for 26 years.
"This observance has come to celebrate President Abraham Lincoln's bold move to take a stand against slavery, an act that all Americans should celebrate," she said. "It also celebrates the freedoms we all enjoy."
"Celebrating freedom is important for all of us," Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, said. "This bill sends a really critical message to those outside our state about the values of Utahns."